Whenever there's a power cut it's a bit like being thrown into an alternate universe. A world of darkness and confusion. The scramble to find your candles ensues and you sit for a while in the glow of a world changed. Until the lights come back on within ten minutes and everything goes back to normal. Most of us don't have power cuts too often, although we have some awareness of how much they can affect us, but the internet? My internet connection goes missing on a weekly basis, and sometimes more frequently. I've spent days both at home and in other people's houses pushing through an endlessly stuttering connection to get something done online.
My life has become so intertwined with the internet over the years. I signed up for Myspace, YouTube, Habbo Hotel, LiveJournal, Facebook, Bebo, and who knows what other forgotten websites in the mid and late 00s. We had our first laptop at home in around 2007 (I was a little later than many of my classmates). My adolescence was inescapably online.
Who would I even be without the internet? I was exposed to various pieces of creativity and subcultures that I wouldn't have otherwise known about. I found new music I loved. I had strange friendships with people from across the sea. I read gossipy confessions on pop culture and spend ages perfecting the glitter graphics and HTML scroll boxes adorning my various online homes. And back then the connection was even more unstable than it is now.
Lately I've been feeling a little more distanced from the internet. Not in a bad way, but I just feel more aware of how sometimes things online become substitutes for real life practices. Online intimacy is everywhere. We share so much with strangers, and I love that. I love being able to connect with people I don't know, people from around the world even. I will never stop being excited when someone from, I don't know, Russia, Brazil, or Japan visits my blog. It's the coolest thing. But no matter how important and amazing what you can find and do online is, it's not real life. Or maybe more accurately it's only one section of real life. Even though I'm probably posting more things more consistently and frequently than ever right now, I want to make sure that I am present in my offline reality too.
Sometimes it's hard. I mean, the first thing I do when I wake up (okay, after I brush my teeth) is open my laptop to look at something, to say something, to see what everyone's up to. There are so many thoughts to look at, and sometimes a nice picture of a dog. It's like reading the morning paper, but with more dogs. And that's nice, but what if it were to disappear? What if it were to collapse upon us? No one wants to be stranded in a world without cute dogs. That's why I think it's so important to try and be present in your life. Because when there's a power cut I feel excited to light the candles, and I think, maybe this could be alright - maybe I could cope with the death of all electrical lamps - but when the internet goes down I guess it's much more emotional than that. My personality and identity are online in so many ways. I want to know that I could live without it, even though I love it. I want to know that I value other things just as much and can do creative things, learn stuff, and talk to people just as much offline. I want to be sure that if the internet goes down, for however long, I can go and watch the clouds move across the sky instead and be just fine.
I know that if the internet ever dies, people will still be walking their adorable dogs down the path that runs alongside the train lines. So I know where to find cute dogs. I know I can write journals and smile at strangers and eat soup and have fun in a million ways without being online. The internet can be so great, but it's not everything, and I want to make sure I remember that.